Introduction: LED Glass Desk

Picture of LED Glass Desk
After being given a frosted glass top desk at work, I thought it would be cool to set up some led powered visual notifications. I coded up a crude NodeJS server to listen for incoming events and a Growl "notification style" to send commands to some BlinkM lights.

 What I used:
Ikea Galant desk
* Custom Software (available on at )
* Growl Software
* 8 BlinkM RGB LEDs from ThingM
* LinkM USB controller from ThingM
* 9 IDC 5x2 Crimp Connectors
* 10 feet of ribbon cable
* 2 sheets of foam core
* a bit of tape, twist ties, and zip ties

What I did:
* Crimped the IDC connectors evenly spaced along the ribbon cable
* Plugged in the controller to one end, usb to that, set the led channel ids
* Started up the server software
* Configured Growl (non-mac users will have to find another way to send commands to the server)
* Watched the pretty lights
* Punched some holes in the foam core boards and attached the lights where I wanted with the twist ties
* Strapped the foam core (lights side up) to the bottom of the desk using zip ties around the metal supports

* The commands sent to the server are really just web page requests sent to the right port. You could use all kinds of other programs to send those commands such as lwp, wget, etc.
* Growl styles are somewhat limited if you can't program Cocoa. So I made a "WebKit Style" and set the CSS background image to "", which is the page request that will tell the server to blink the lights red one time.
* I couldn't figure out where to buy it, but ThingM has added a WireM kit that would replace my not-quite-correct 5x2 IDC connectors.


tdax (author)2013-09-11

The adurio is about 60$ and i was wondering how hard it would be to transform your code to something i could run from my spare raspberry pi.
any chance you or anyone else could help me with this? Would be great since i just got a glass table for 19€;)

lagrasta (author)tdax2013-09-12

Yeah, the arduino used in version 2 is pricey by todays standards. If the Pi had been around then, I would have used it. The version 1 code is node based and if you were to investigate the Node Serial project, you could probably run that directly of a Pi with the ThingM lights.

If you go with the lights from version 2, check out the forums at Adafruit. They have been pretty helpful.

lagrasta (author)2013-04-16

Just wanted to drop a note here to announce a big software update for version 2 of this project. You can find it at

KellyMai (author)2012-07-08

The design is very pretty beautiful,But it seems that there's some led light under the top. I think the LED glass will more dream and soft.
Kindly see the picture,LED glass desk.

KellyMai (author)2012-07-08

The design is very pretty beautiful,But it seems that there's some led light under the top. I think the LED glass will more dream and soft.
Kindly see the picture,LED glass desk.

canucksgirl (author)2012-06-07

Great job (You should have got more than a runner-up prize imo). ;-)

lagrasta (author)2012-04-01

Anybody want to see the desk in person? Come to Maker Faire in May! I'll be there exhibiting the desk and hopefully some software updates.

Check it out:

You can also follow me on twitter now for updates @mnlagrasta

sjeenyus (author)2011-11-15

would this work with the black glass desk? I think that might make a great effect if it works properly.....

basically, i'm asking if black glass is opaque...

lagrasta (author)sjeenyus2011-11-15

I'm no expert on glass in general or Ikea furniture. If it really is "black" I imagine that it is opaque and this wouldn't work. However, I have seen some people do some really neat things with lights shining through darkly tinted glass. ThingM does have a brighter light. I think it's called the MaxM or something and it would require a dedicated power source.

hdormitzer (author)2011-10-02

i love it and was thinking i might do the same. but how do i make the lights flash when i get a notification.

ssuang (author)2011-09-22

hi, this is nice, can i actually make it (touch screen vf sensor) which will move the LED light when we touch it? thanks

lagrasta (author)ssuang2011-09-28

The lights themselves have no support for sensors. However, the lights are easily controlled by a variety of microcontrollers, such as Pic or Arduino, which could receive sensor input and send serial commands to the lights.

ledfixturedesign (author)2011-09-15


BodenM (author)2011-08-11

Will this work with Windows? (Windows has a Growl version too)

lagrasta (author)BodenM2011-08-11

I don't know about a Windows version of growl, but the NodeJS server part should definitely work on Windows. Then it would just be a matter of sending the right commands to the server. A lot of mail and chat clients can be configured to execute scripts when a new message comes in and you could do something there.

BodenM (author)lagrasta2011-08-11

Ah, ok , thanks, will give this a try with my glass desk and my PC

_Billa_ (author)2011-08-06

so cool

kiwinewt (author)2011-08-04

I like it! Thinking about doing the same thing when I get a new desk...

Are you able to control the lights individually or are they all together?

lagrasta (author)kiwinewt2011-08-04

Yes, you can assign each light a numeric channel id. You can then send commands to 1 or more channels, or broadcast to all channels. You can also put more than 1 light on any channel.

kiwinewt (author)lagrasta2011-08-04


Epimetheus (author)2011-08-04

Nice instructable


Do you ever race down at Qualcomm =P?

lagrasta (author)Epimetheus2011-08-04

Yup. I run autocrosses down there with the Porsche club about once a month. How about you?

I've got some race vids up on the same YouTube account as the video, if you are interested.

Ramzylakos (author)2011-08-03

Do you have to use 8 lights or could you just use four? Great project by the way!

lagrasta (author)Ramzylakos2011-08-04

You could use anywhere from 1 to 8 lights and it would work just like this.

However, the USB port can only provide enough power to support 8 or less. Beyond that, you would have to provide a separate 5v power source.

janw (author)2011-08-03

This is a very nice project! It looks stunning.

Congrats on your first instructable!

iwoodinspire (author)2011-08-02

You know, I'm in school at a local college for Instrumentation and Controls technology, and I do solder kits and led projects for fun, but I see the complex simplicity of this LED desk and think, dang, I don't know much about anything. Nice project, man.

lagrasta (author)iwoodinspire2011-08-02

Thanks a lot! I've got to give props to ThingM, who made this project easier.

vishalapr (author)2011-08-02

That looks stunning! I always liked and will like LEDs! They are just sooo awesome!

bertus52x11 (author)2011-07-30

I like this very much! It would distract the hell out of me I guess!
Hope you get featured!

lagrasta (author)bertus52x112011-07-30

Thanks! I do try and keep it limited to the single flash notification. But, I'll turn on the patterns when I'm taking a break or something like that.

About This Instructable




Bio: Software Engineer from San Diego, Ca. When I'm not coding, I like to take pictures and race cars.
More by lagrasta:LED Glass Desk v2.0LED Glass Desk
Add instructable to: